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Doctors Balking At State Limits On Opioid Prescriptions

For governors and legislators in nearly every state, the soaring overdose death toll from prescription painkillers, heroin, and fentanyl has become an urgent priority, Stateline reports. Lawmakers in dozens of states took decisive action this year to stanch the flow of prescription pain drugs and help those addicted to them. Roughly 2.5 million Americans are addicted to opioids, and more than 28,000 people died of overdoses of painkillers or heroin in 2014, the highest toll ever. To keep more people from becoming addicted to medicines such as Percocet, OxyContin and Vicodin, lawmakers in five states set limits on the number of pills a physician can prescribe to a patient for the first time. Twenty-nine states beefed up monitoring of filled prescriptions to prevent addicts from “doctor shopping” for more pills.

Sixteen states expanded the use of naloxone, an overdose antidote drug few lawmakers had heard of just a year ago. At at least nine states adopted requirements that Medicaid and other insurers pay for all medically recommended addiction services, just as they would for other diseases, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The new laws are not without controversy. In several Northeast states, doctors are balking at new limits on the number of pills hospital emergency departments, physicians, dentists, or nurses can prescribe for acute pain. Prominent medical groups, including the American Medical Association, argue that doctors and patients, rather than lawmakers, should be able to balance the need for pain relief against the risk of addiction in individual cases.

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DOJ Requiring 28,000 Employees To Be Trained On Racial Bias

As police have grappled with accusations of racism after shootings of unarmed blacks, the Department of Justice has pushed law enforcement departments to undertake increasingly popular trainings on how unconscious biases such as racial prejudice influence policing. Now, the federal department is turning the mirror on itself, reports the Los Angeles Times. DOJ said yesterday that more than 28,000 employees will take part in mandatory implicit bias training over the next year, forcing federal agents to confront their subtle views on race and a host of other issues, including gender and sexual orientation. The trainings will include 5,800 U.S. attorneys and 23,000 federal agents in the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and U.S. Marshals Service.

The move comes after criticism of the department, which had encouraged local police to take part in such trainings but had not widely implemented anti-bias curriculum internally. Since 2010, the DOJ’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, which supports local police through education programs and grants for hiring and equipment, has helped train more than 2,600 police through an effort called Fair and Impartial Policing. A version of the program, developed by the Police Executive Research Forum, will be used for federal agents. It covers race, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as "socioeconomic and professional status," according to the department. Delores Jones-Brown of the John Jay College Center on Race, Crime and Justice called the Justice Department training a "major step forward."

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IN Prosecutor Frustrated That Two Rape Charges Lead To One Day In Jail

The Monroe County, In., prosecutor’s office admitted it was frustrated after a former Indiana University student charged in two rape cases ended up spending one day in jail, reports the Indianapolis Star/Fox59. John Enochs will serve one year of probation after pleading guilty to battery with moderate bodily injury as part of a plea agreement. Two rape charges were dismissed. A woman told police she’d been raped at the Delta Tau Delta fraternity house but didn’t know her alleged attacker. She said she repeatedly told him to stop, but he held her down. Eventually she was able to leave the room and get away.

Security video showed Enochs entering the room with the victim. While that case was under investigation, police found a similar alleged rape from 2013. DNA evidence and witness statements led them to Enochs. Prosecutors said the case presented a “very unusual” set of circumstances; law prevented a jury in either case from learning about the other allegation if the cases went to trial. In the more recent case, prosecutors said DNA and video evidence was problematic. “This turn of events was frustrating for us as prosecutors, due to the fact that there were two complaints against the defendant. That fact is the reason we continued to pursue accountability on his part which led to this plea agreement,” said Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Robert Miller. 

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MN Group Wants Police To Pay For Insurance In Misconduct Cases

When cities settle cases of inappropriate or illegal force by police officers, they can pay a lot. Chicago has paid more than half a billion dollars since 2004, says NPR. Some advocates say all those payouts haven't had much of an effect on policing practices. Minneapolis activist Michelle Gross says when cities pay damages, individual police officers often aren't held accountable, which means they're not likely to change their behavior. A group called the Committee for Professional Policing is "working to get a measure on the ballot that would require police officers to carry professional liability insurance," she says. Some officers carry liability insurance voluntarily. Gross' group wants to make it a condition of employment in Minneapolis. Their proposal would have the city cover the cost of basic insurance, but any premium increases due to misconduct would be the officer's responsibility.

Dave Bicking, a member of the ballot campaign, says bad cops would pay more; the worse the track record, the higher the premium. "We have one officer who's had five significant settlements against him just in a year and a half," Bicking says. "Someone like that could never, ever buy insurance. They'd have to charge him $60[000]-$70,000 a year. That officer would be gone." Police call the plan simplistic. "I always equate police work to, like, basketball. If you're not getting any fouls, you're not playing hard enough," says Lt. Bob Kroll, president of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis. He says if cops have to worry about insurance rates, they may become overly cautious. "Anybody can get in the squad car and drive around and put the blinders on, and not investigate suspicious circumstances," he says. "If you don't do that proactive police work, your likelihood of being sued is a lot less."

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As Police-Community Relations Wane, Fewer Seek Officer Jobs

Because fewer young people in Delaware are considering policing as a profession, police departments are placing a stronger emphasis on recruiting, reports the Wilmington News Journal. “There’s a decrease in applicants in general, and it’s not just a Delaware problem,” said New Castle County police Capt. Laura O’Sullivan. "Twenty years ago you were competing with 1,000 people for 15 spots, and today you certainly have to push harder to get more applicants to come in." Some departments have lowered standards because of the smaller applicant pools, like Philadelphia's, which is about to remove college education requirements. Steps like this have prompted concerns that the quality of officers will suffer over time.

"It's not really a leap of logic to say down the road you could have a problem," said Nelson Lim of the Fels Institute of Government at the University of Pennsylvania, who studies police recruiting for the Rand Corporation. Interest in policing has waned as relationships have soured between cops and residents and as private sector jobs became more abundant with the end of the 2008 recession. Jeffrey Horvath of the Delaware Police Chiefs’ Association said nearly every department statewide is facing some kind of recruiting challenge, whether it is attracting enough applicants or enough recruits who match the racial makeup of the area they will patrol. “When I was hired in 1984, I think there were 200 people for two openings. Now you might get 40 or 50,” he said.

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High Court Ruling On Guns, Domestic Violence Preserves 34 State Laws

Yesterday's Supreme Court ruling affirming a 20-year-old law barring anyone convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence from possessing a firearm is “hugely significant” because it will protect thousands of domestic-violence victims “who, if the court had ruled the other way, would not have been protected by the federal gun ban,” Ruth Glenn of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence tells Law.com. In a 6-2 ruling written by Justice Elena Kagan, the high court rejected challenges by two men convicted of felony gun possession because they previously had been convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence.

The ruling reflected a broader debate that attracted amicus briefs from gun rights groups, gun-control groups, and organizations advocating for victims of domestic violence. William Rosen of Everytown For Gun Safety called the ruling “an important victory, particularly for women and families.” If the high court had thrown out the felony gun possession convictions at the heart of the case, Rosen said the statutory language on which the Supreme Court challenge was based would have endangered laws in 34 states and the District of Columbia that contain broad definitions of intent in domestic-violence cases.

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Comey Refused To Name Orlando Gunman; Is That A Trend?

 

When FBI Director James Comey discussed on national television the massacre at an Orlando nightclub, he made an off-the-cuff policy decision not to speak the gunman's name. "You will notice that I am not using the killer's name, and I will try not to do that," Comey said during the live news conference, the Associated Press reports. By then, the name Comey was refusing to say had already been known for nearly 24 hours: Omar Mateen. Forty-nine people were killed in the attack, the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history. Comey's pronouncement reflects a change in how federal officials discuss terrorism cases, and it opened the door to questions about whether the intense focus on terrorists since 9/11 has unintentionally glorified them.

 

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Fentanyl's Potency Is Posing Dangers To Police Officers

The street version of fentanyl blamed for the deaths of thousands is also threatening police officers, forcing changes in long-standing basics of drug investigations, from confiscations to testing and undercover operations, law enforcement officials tell the Associated Press. Overdose deaths have surged as drugs such as heroin, cocaine, and counterfeit prescription pills are now commonly laced with fentanyl to increase potency. Drug investigators say it is increasingly sold by itself, too. A speck the size of a few grains of salt can potentially kill a 250-pound man, said Tommy Farmer of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

Fentanyl can be absorbed through the skin or inhaled if it becomes airborne. Because such a small amount can be deadly, police agencies are changing the way they go about keeping officers safe. James Shroba of the Drug Enforcement Administration in St. Louis said agents are even trained in how to give themselves the anti-overdose Narcan in case of accidental exposure to fentanyl because "if they actually touch it or inhale it, they could die." Farmer said, "We definitely see it as the next big danger. With fentanyl, if the officer is simply patting somebody down, or if he's getting a little bit out to try to do a field test and it accidentally comes in contact with his skin or the wind blows it in his face, he could have a serious problem."

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